The beauty of my experience reading The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey, was that I didn’t know much about the book in the first place. Every bit of it was a surprise, a delight of real genius.
So I hesitate to give you specifics about the plot. I will say that it manages to feature a familiar subject in pop culture these days, but in a brilliant new way. And it takes what could be seen as an overused dystopian/post-apocalyptic future landscape and gives it the most human, hopeful spin I’ve read in…well, maybe ever.
It was certainly my favorite book of 2014, and now ranks as one of my favorite books ever.
Here’s just a teaser:
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.
Other reviews have qualified this book as horror. While I suppose I understand that, don’t get put off by that description if horror is not your thing. Horror is definitely not MY thing, and I loved this book. But I would agree with reviewers who qualify it as science fiction, dystopian, futuristic, even mystery and thriller.
The plot, the pace, the characters – everything worked for me. It was complex and engaging, it was raw and moving and uncomfortable, even.
Why might someone not like this book? It requires that you follow every sentence – no skimming here. This is such a carefully crafted novel that you simply must pay the writer his due and follow along. There is also a decent bit of language, but it’s used in context with characters that make sense (and it didn’t tip my discomfort meter in that regard). It also gets quite scientific in some parts, owing to a particular character’s focus and role in the book. Those are the sections where it gets most tempting to skim, but you’ve got to stay the course. And finally, it’s violent. Not gratuitously so, in my opinion. It’s just the nature of what’s happening in the story. But it definitely gets violent in some parts, so there’s that.
Even so, I truly loved this book. The writing was magnificent, and I was so impressed with how Carey took things that ought to have been familiar to me (themes, settings, etc) and made them brand new. The Girl with all the Gifts was a very real, emotionally honest, deeply complex book, with an ending that was both heartbreaking and entirely satisfying. Even if you think this is a book that might be outside your interests or comfort zone, I recommend giving it a try!
*Affiliate links used in this post.